One of the most iconic spaceships in sci-fi television history is Star Trek: The Next Generation’s starship Enterprise. Only Kirk’s original ship from the sixties series comes close to rivaling Picard’s Enterprise in terms of recognizability. Since they created the show in 1987, this was well before the era of CGI. Meaning they created the ship as an incredibly detailed 6-foot model. Now, the Twitter account known as Art of Star Trek has released a series of vintage photos, showing the Enterprise-D going from the blueprint to the fully finished model ready for filming. In the thread, you can see how they created the world-famous starship, step by step.
A thread in which the original 6-foot studio model of the Enterprise-D is built, tweet by tweet!— Art of Star Trek (@ArtofTrek) April 22, 2022
First pic: Bill Concannom and Ease Owyeung study the deck plans... pic.twitter.com/g2yxhl11uZ
The top and bottom halves of the main dish are wired for neon with armature in place. pic.twitter.com/j4pNQNVxwK
— Art of Star Trek (@ArtofTrek) April 22, 2022
Artist and former Disney Imagineer Andrew Probert designed the TNG era Enterprise. He had designed the refit Enterprise model for Star Trek: The Motion Picture some eight years earlier. Gene Roddenberry loved what he did for the films so much, that he asked him to return to design the Enterprise-D. And thus, a legendary ship was born.
The original model was extremely sophisticated in its day, and totally state-of-the-art. And no surprise there, as George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic built it. TNG’s Enterprise studio model cost $75,000 in total to construct. (And remember, this is in 1987 dollars!) Who knows how much that tallies up to in today’s money.
Made of fiberglass and aluminum framing, it had details that few could make out on their old standard definition TVs back then. But in the era of HD, we can see how well that model holds up.
In later seasons, they built a smaller 4-foot Enterprise model, designed by Greg Jein. That’s the one most often seen in later TNG seasons. But it’s the original 6-foot model we see in every opening credits sequence for The Next Generation, so it’s forever iconic. And a true work of practical effects genius.